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Tuesday’s election raises the prospects in Boston, Brockton

Candidates of color in both cities could shift racial power balance in government

Banner Staff
Tuesday’s election raises the prospects in Boston, Brockton

The Nov. 7 election features city council races in Boston and a contested mayoral election in Brockton.

Hanging in the balance in the Boston races is a progressive majority on the City Council and a near-majority of six members of color. The Brockton election raises the prospect of the city electing its first Black mayor.

Boston’s current council includes two progressives of color who were defeated in the September preliminary election, Ricardo Arroyo from Hyde Park-based District 5 and Kendra Lara from District 6 in Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. In addition, two white conservative-leaning members, at-large Councilor Michael Flaherty from South Boston and District 3 Councilor Frank Baker from Dorchester, are not seeking reelection.

Given historical trends, the three other at-large councilors are expected to win. Both Julia Mejia, an Afro-Latina, and Ruthzee Louijeune, who is Haitian, are progressives. The other at-large councilor, Erin Murphy, is a white conservative from Dorchester.

Five other candidates are running for one of four at-large seats. The most competitive entrants are Henry Santana from Dorchester and Bridget Nee-Walsh from South Boston.

Santana, a Dominican immigrant who identifies as Afro-Latino, quit his City Hall job to make his first run for elected office. He has the backing of Mayor Michelle Wu, state Senator Lydia Edwards and Louijeune.

Nee-Walsh is an ironworker whose campaign literature features an image of her striking a pose that invokes Rosie the Riveter from the World War II era. She has the endorsement of 25 labor unions, including the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, and considers herself a moderate.

There was no preliminary election for at-large seats as there were only eight candidates. Two years ago, Nee-Walsh also ran, finishing seventh.

With Arroyo’s pending departure, two Latinos are facing off in the District 5 race, offsetting the loss of one from the near-majority of color. The two candidates to be his successor, Enrique Pepén and José Ruiz, have different politics from each other.

Pepén, a Dominican who formerly directed the city’s neighborhood services, has politics that resemble Arroyo’s. Wu has endorsed her former aide, citing “progressive values” he shares with the current council majority.

Ruiz, a native of Puerto Rico, retired as a Boston police officer after nearly 30 years. His pro-police views are more aligned with the views of council conservatives.

Pepén led the four-candidate field in the preliminary, with 40% of the vote to Ruiz’s 31%.

The contest for Lara’s seat has come down to Ben Weber, a white progressive lawyer from Jamaica Plain, and William King, a Black IT director from West Roxbury, the more conservative part of District 6.

In his first run for office, Weber led the field in the multi-candidate preliminary. King had previously run for an at-large seat in 2017 and 2019, losing both times.

There is also no incumbent running in District 3 in eastern Dorchester because of Baker’s retirement.

John FitzGerald topped the seven-candidate field in the preliminary, with 43% of the vote. The white city employee has collected the most contributions in the race, even without his direct involvement in fundraising because he remains on his job at the Boston Planning and Development Agency. His literature has flooded mailboxes in the district.

Joel Richards, a Black former teacher in Boston Public Schools, pulled 19% of the preliminary vote. The son of Jamaican immigrants has received endorsements from the Democratic Socialists of America and the Boston Teachers Union, whose headquarters is in the district.

FitzGerald, a first-time candidate, has been endorsed by Baker and former mayor Marty Walsh, who lives in the district. Richards unsuccessfully ran for an at-large seat two years ago. The majority-minority district has never elected a councilor of color.

Voters in District 8 from Beacon Hill to Mission Hill are replay of a July special election held because Wu appointed Kenzie Bok director of the Boston Housing Authority. Sharon Durkan, a white political organizer who has worked for Wu and Senator Edward Markey, captured about 70% of the vote, while Montez Haywood, a Black prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, landed the other 30%.

In Roxbury, Fenway and parts of Dorchester and the South End, District 7 Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson faces perennial candidate Althea Garrison, who has served short periods on the council and in the Massachusetts Legislature. Fernandes Anderson led the five-candidate field in the preliminary with 57% of the vote to Garrison’s 21%.

In Brockton, small-business owner Fred Fontaine is challenging incumbent Robert Sullivan in a bid to become the first Black mayor of the city, where a majority of residents are of color.

Sullivan, seeking a second term in office, bested the five-candidate field in the September preliminary with 62% of the vote. He had previously been an at-large councilor for 14 years. Two years of multi-million deficits and associated layoffs have left hundreds of Brockton public school students, who are overwhelmingly Black or Latino, without certified teachers in their classrooms.

Fontaine, who was born in Haiti, secured 23% of the preliminary vote. He has operated several businesses in the city, held City Hall jobs under different mayors and run unsuccessfully for city council in 2019 and the state legislature last year.

Jass Stewart came close to becoming Brockton’s first Black mayor in 2005, when he won 44% in the general election, and even closer in 2007 with 47%.

For the current mayoral race, Brockton allows early voting through Nov. 3.

In both Brockton and Boston, polls are open on Election Day, Nov. 7, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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